“Like Boom!” was the Rev. Dino Woodard’s favorite expression, whether he was greeting you or emphasizing a point. It was as much a part of him as the generous praise and fond memories extended to him during the homegoing service on Sunday, March 8 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
I heard about Woodard’s passing much too late to attend the services, but like the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, the church’s pastor who officiated at the services, as well as those who paid tribute to him, I have my own reflections of him I’d like to share.
When I first encountered Woodard and heard the first “boom,” he was a student in my class at the College of New Rochelle. By that time, I think he was also taking classes upstairs in the building at the New York Theological Seminary. From the first words out of his mouth, I knew he was special, and that uniqueness was shared with all the students during our wide and sometimes intense discussions.
Woodard was an excellent student, and his scholarship was unassumingly underscored by his experiences. Later, when I learned he had been a sparring partner for the immortal Sugar Ray Robinson, he became a most resourceful informant as I sought to complete a biography on the fighter.
Communicator extraordinaire Bob Law, who was among the speakers at the service, said these facts were disclosed by more than one person. Law said he knew Woodard from a number of his productive endeavors, including the days when he worked at STAX and KOKO Records as a promotions director from 1968 to 1983. “He was just as smooth and articulate in this occupation as he would later be in his ministry,” Law said. “Dino was like a brother to me, and I will miss him and his boom.”
Woodard was born July 19, 1934, in Memphis, Tenn., and was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. His funeral program related that he was the grandson of the offspring of a slave master, and therefore, very early in his life, he knew the ravages of oppression and bondage. This was something he reminded me and his colleagues of during our classroom discussions.
But it was in the boxing ring and as a Golden Gloves contender that he gathered the real hard knocks of life. During many of his training bouts with Robinson, it was his unenviable task to get the “Sugar Man” ready for the likes of Carmen Basilio and Gene Fullmer by imitating their styles. “There were times when we would tear into each other, when Sugar refused to pull his punches and I would stay right with him,” Woodard told me. “These moments only made him better, more confident when the real deal went down.”
Those nights and days in the ring soon gave way to less dangerous pursuits—the music business and education. Law reminded me that it was Woodard who gave Isaac Hayes his nickname of “Black Moses” because of the singer’s impact on his Black audiences, virtually transporting them to the Promised Land. In 1973, Woodard was named Promotion Man of the Year by the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers.
A decade or so later, Woodard was on his last odyssey toward the ministry, eventually obtaining his Master of Divinity degree from the New York Theological Seminary after earning his Bachelor of Arts from the College of New Rochelle. It was always such a pleasure to encounter him during my moments at Abyssinian Baptist Church, where he assumed several important duties, including assistant to the pastor, which didn’t restrict or confine his commitment to the community at large. He was a walking, talking spiritual advisor to so many residents, particularly activists concerned with police misconduct, the multitude of homeless people or the young people in need of counseling.
“This devotion to the community was part of his mission as a minister,” his wife, Suzanne, said a week after his homegoing. “He never complained about anything, and there was an almost military-like bearing about him that commanded respect for all those who came in contact with him. “
She said what she will miss most is the travel they did together, as well as his gentle tenderness. “He was a very loving, thoughtful man, and despite his busy schedule, he always found time to bring me some flowers,” she said.
Photography was another passion of Woodard’s, that is, when he wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities in the Masonic Lodge or promoting sundry benefits such as the Ted Rhodes Golf Classic. Even as his health declined, Woodard’s faith in God and devotion to his family kept him active until the final day on March 1.
According to the funeral program, Woodard was the last of his siblings on this earthly plain, and he leaves to cherish his legacy his loving wife, Suzanne, a most accomplished musician whom he married in 1999; stepsons Harold Lee Reid Jr. and Kelly Reid; stepdaughters Yvette Thomas and Bernadette Reid Collins; grandsons Kiam, Dequan (boxer), Jaquan, Noble and Aaron (affectionately known as “Rev. Collins”); granddaughter, Janee Hume; six great-grandchildren; nieces Dedrienne McKenzie, Dolecia Williams, Dianjunese Williams, Davelyn Norwood and Nicara McKenzie; nephew, Lester Norwood (Kristie); as well as a host of grandnieces, nephews and cousins.
And “like boom,” the fight continues …